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Immigrants needed to offset Switzerland's ageing population

The immigrant population is set to rise significantly as the Swiss population ages swissinfo.ch

Switzerland will in future have to rely on its immigrant population to maintain its economic competitiveness, according to a new study.

This content was published on November 4, 2001 - 10:35

The Swiss think-tank, Avenir Suisse, says the number of old-age pensioners will rise more sharply in the next 60 years than was previously suggested by figures released by the Federal Office of Statistics.

The increase will represent a heavy financial burden on the country's working population, a trend which can only be offset by increasing the number of immigrants in the country, according to the authors of the report.

The study estimates that the population over the age of 65 will double over the next six decades to reach 27.2 per cent of the population. The population of over-80s will triple in that time.

For every 100 people of working age, there will be 52 people in retirement, a ratio that is two times higher than at present.

Easing citizenship

Avenir Suisse suggests that increasing the naturalisation rate of Switzerland's immigrant population - from the current 1.5 per cent to two per cent - would be sufficient to counter the problem.

"We have a shrinking population at working age - this means we have to rethink the Swiss position on immigration policies," says Rainer Münz, a demographic expert and one of the authors of the report.

The authors believe that Swiss government policy will respond by making its easier for immigrants to gain citizenship, and they estimate that the immigrant population will rise from the current 19.8 per cent of the population to 26.4 per cent in 2060.

In addition, Swiss authorities will also have to review policies relating to care for the elderly and the health system to take account of the rising number of pensioners.

Another area of concern, says Münz, is that future generations will have fewer relatives to see them through old age, because of low birth rates and the high rate of divorce.

However, Switzerland is by no means the only country to suffer from a decrease in the working population, says the report.

"Other European countries are in the same situation as Switzerland," says Münz. "And these countries will probably be competing for the same group of 'attractive' immigrants who they would like to come to their countries."

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